Saturday, September 19, 2009

DIY almanac: heirloom apple butter

My cousin was in town a little while ago. I took her out to the tomato farm and then decided we should pick apples together since it was such a gorgeous, late-summer afternoon. My family has two 100-year-old apple trees, and there are some more wild ones growing in a meadow across the road from the farm. To get to this forgotten apple orchard, you have to scramble through a thicket of blackberries, and once through, you'll find yourself in a peaceful field of golden grass, speckled with ancient apple trees and a few small Hawthorns. My cousin and I picked all sorts of apples that day: tiny pink apples, skinny yellow apples, and big, fat green ones. With such an abundance of fresh apples, I had one thing on the brain: apple butter! Mmm, after being slow-cooked with spices, homemade apple butter is absolutely heavenly spread on some toast. I made some right away, here's my recipe- you have to try this:

10 cups peeled and seeded apples, cubed
1 cup apple juice or cider
Cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove to taste
2 tablespoons lemon juice
4 tablespoons brown sugar

Throw apples and cider into a large stockpot and bring to a boil. Boil 5 minutes and then reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer for 1-2 hours, stirring every 15 minutes. When apples are soft, saucy, and brown add the spices, lemon juice, and brown sugar and mix well. Slowly begin mashing the mixture. Using a hand blender, blend the apples until smooth and creamy. Get out some good bread and enjoy! Goes well with peanut butter too for an autumnal spin on the classic peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
I also have jars of this apple butter up on etsy:

Friday, September 11, 2009

DIY almanac: scrumptious summer squash stuffed with cheese

Ever seen a pattypan squash? These flying saucers, also known as sunburst squash, are slightly cone-like in shape with frilled fact, they almost look like little flying saucers when turned upside down. They have a sweet and buttery flavor similar to zucchini and a soft texture characteristic of other summer squash. You can buy seeds for them (for next spring) from the Territorial Seed Company:
Pattypan can be picked when they are itty-bitty or when they are as large as a baseball. The smaller guys are delicious steamed or sautéed in butter. You really have to let some of these pattypan hold out on the vine until they are on the larger side though, so as to make stuffed pattypan with goatcheese, walnuts, and parmesan (and maybe some bacon?). Here's how to do it:
4 large pattypan squash
4oz chevre goat cheese
1 small onion, chopped
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup bread crumbs
1/3 cup shaved parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon olive oil
sea salt and pepper
4 slices bacon (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Boil squash for 5-10 minutes until easily pierced with a fork. Slice off their tops and scoop out their insides. Mix squash insides with goat cheese, chopped onion and walnuts. Add cooked bacon (fried over medium heat), broken into pieces, to the filling if desired. Add salt and pepper to taste. Place squash shells in a baking dish and fill with the goatcheese mixture. Mix bread crumbs, parmesan, and olive oil, and generously top each patty pan. Bake for 10-15minutes or until topping is toasted and golden brown. Enjoy (I know you will!).

Thursday, September 10, 2009

DIY almanac: heirloom purple calabash tomato soup

So, my family has a tomato farm- Flying Tomato Farm of Snohomish, Washington to be exact. You can visit the farm's website here for some background:

Anyway, of all the various tomatoes we grow, the Heirloom Purple Calabash are, hands-down, my favorites of the whole batch. Their appearance is almost comically striking: fat and jovial, purplish-red wrinkled balls of Lycopersicon character. And they taste pretty darn good too! A more acidic tomader, these heirlooms have a vibrantly tart taste, as if they were the lovechild betwixt a tomato and a lime. Mmm mmm mmm, delicious simply sliced with a light dusting of sea salt, or transformed into this amazingly flavorful, roasted calabash soup:

6 big calabash tomatoes
2-3 tablespoons olive oil or grapeseed oil
2 handfuls fresh basil (and any other herbs you'd like such as oregano, parsley, etc)
2-3 cloves chopped garlic
1 tablespoon organic butter
2 cups free-range chicken or vegetable stock
pepper and sea salt to taste
1/2 cup organic cream (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Chop calabash tomatoes into fat wedges and then toss into a baking dish. Drizzle with oil and mix in the herbs. Roast in the oven for 35-45 minutes, until tomato skins are loose and their fruit is shriveled and juicy. Meanwhile, sauté chopped garlic in butter over medium heat until lightly browned. Start heating the stock in a large saucepan. Add the garlic and the cooked tomatoes. Purée with a handheld blender, and additionally strain for a smoother soup, if desired. For a more luscious version, mix in cream. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve with good bread or a hearty scoop of chevre goat cheese. This soup's totally meant for a rainy day!

our homestead: gee, I like fruits n' veggies.

I am absolutely, positively in love with vegetables. And fruits. And mushrooms. And nuts. And all the other nifty edibles Mother Nature has generously provided for us human folk to discover. There is nothing as marvelous as the act of pulling a bright, sweet carrot from the dirt..or brushing one's hand over the rich, green and nutty leaves of spinach. There is nothing as tantalizing as a roasted baby red fingerling potato pierced with a shiny fork- its creamy, buttery flavor but moments from being enjoyed. There is nothing that smells as clean and cool as a just-sliced lemon cucumber or as sweet and tart as a vine-ripened cherry tomato.
In writing this blog, I have decided it would best to share my adoration for produce with others- to grant people with creative recipes, cool facts, and colorful photographs about the gourmet flora I love. Where did this 'love' sprout from? Well, it could be in my nature: both sets of Great Grandparents on my mom's side were either farmers or nursery owners in the "old countries". I might also mention my green-thumb parents: a dad who once owned his own landscaping business and a mom with a tomato farm. On this note, my admiration of veggies also stems from childhood years of eating lesser-known purple potatoes, carving pumpkins grown in a big patch down our hill, picking berries, cherries, and apples galore from our yard, and tending my own mini-vegetable and sunflower gardens. My mom, a talented woman in all things "earthy", began making goatsmilk soap and soon headed to the local farmers market with her creations. This venture to the market inspired her to pursue farming: tomatoes, honey, garlic, herbs, eggplant, basil, cucumbers, eggs...and needless to say I came along and became a "market brat", spending much of my time at the market, meeting local farmers, and learning the "in's and out's" of fruits and veggies. Thus, in a nutshell, I bring this blog to you- a place where I can express how awesome vegetables really are.